Book Review: How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, by Chris Taylor

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

The Star Wars franchise is no small thing, with an estimated 1.3 billion tickets sold to the six theatrically released movies worldwide, $6 billion in VHS/DVD sales and $20 billion in merchandise sales. But how did it grow from the impossible dream of a young filmmaker to a multibillion-dollar franchise? Journalist Chris Taylor answers that question in How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, which covers not only the "past, present and future" of what might be the world's most ubiquitous franchise, but also how it has made an impact on--and been influenced by--its ever-growing fan base.

Taylor weaves George Lucas's biography with a history of science fiction and space fantasy in print and on screen, which he then fits into an exploration of Lucas's creative approach to each of the six films and the timely political undertones in each story. He then turns to the Expanded Universe (the body of Star Wars books, games, TV shows and other sanctioned stories) and how it interacts with Lucas's big-screen creations.

Taylor doesn's shy away from criticisms of Lucasfilm or the movies themselves, such as flaws in the plotlines or tensions on the film sets. But at its heart, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is a love letter to a franchise that has become entrenched in contemporary culture in more ways than we could possibly count (just think how difficult it would be to find someone, anyone, who does not know the identity of Luke's father), and a testament to the power of space fantasy to capture our imaginations.


A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review.
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe | Chris Taylor | Basic Books | Hardcover | October 2014


  1. Emily@as the crowe fliesNovember 5, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    I didn't know this was a book! Star Wars: A New Hope (Or just plain Star Wars, as we called it then) was the first movie I remember seeing in the theatres when I was five. It shaped my childhood in a way that not many other things did, and it tickles me today to see that it's going just as strong. Seems like there was a gap of about 10-15 years when the Star Wars mania had waned, so who could have predicted that it would all rush back an infect new generations of kids with the same enthusiasm?

  2. Yes! The book goes into a bit of that--how the empire (pun intended?) started to fade from imaginations and then was rejuvenated by toy lines and home video availability, etc. etc. It's full of fascinating trivia if you're a huge Star Wars fan, but also a really interesting story about how a truly unlikely-to-be-a-success film became such an important part of pop culture today.

  3. I'm not a big Star Wars fan, but this sounds like a great read for people who are.


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